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Historical and present distribution of coyote (Canis latrans) in Mexico and Central America

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Abstract Aim 

Coyote (Canis latrans) distribution in Mexico and Central America has expanded recently reaching the Yucatan peninsula, Belize and Panama, probably promoted by deforestation of tropical areas. Historically, the southern distribution of coyotes prior to European settlement in America was described as reaching only as far south as central Mexico and that introduction of livestock favoured migration of coyotes to southern Mexico and Central America. However, coyote fossil records in Central America and Yucatan, as well as observational records of travellers during the sixteenth century suggest that the coyote's arrival to the region was earlier. Because of the uncertainty of past coyote distribution and the possible economic and ecological impacts due to recent range expansion, the objectives of this study were to confirm if paleontological and historical evidence support the hypothesis that the southernmost limit of coyote distribution before the arrival of European settlers was the centre of Mexico, to discuss the possible factors that have influenced historical shifts in coyote distribution, and to model the present distribution of the coyote in Mexico and Central America, determining the areas where they could invade in the near future. Location 

The research area comprises continental Mexico and the Central American Isthmus countries: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Methods 

The historical distribution (Pleistocene–Early Holocene, Pre-Columbian, sixteenth to nineteenth centuries and twentieth century) was established from coyote records obtained from museum collections and specialized literature. Present coyote distribution for Mexico and Central America was modelled using the Genetic Algorithms for Rule-set Prediction (GARP). Results 

Historical coyote records show that this species was distributed in southern Mexico and Central America during the Pleistocene–Early Holocene, the Pre-Columbian period, and during the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Coyote records indicate a continuous range expansion during the twentieth century. Historical advance and regression of tropical forests in southern Mexico and Central America produced by natural and human events such as climatic changes and variation in human densities could help us understand the historical coyote distribution. The modelled present-day coyote distribution included the north of Belize, the north of Panama, the north of the Yucatan Peninsula and a corridor on the Gulf costal plain of Campeche in Mexico. Also, the model predicted a region north of the Darien in southern Panama as appropriate for the presence of coyotes, although they have not been detected there so far. Main conclusion 

Coyote records in southern Mexico and Central America during the Pleistocene–Early Holocene, the Pre-Columbian period, and early arrival of European settlers to the area indicated that coyotes were probably already present there and did not recently disperse from the north of Mexico to the south due to livestock introduction.
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Keywords: Canis latrans; Central America; Centro América; Coyote; GARP; Genetic Algorithms for Rule-set Prediction; Mexico; México; distribución; distribution; expansión; range expansion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Ecología y Comportamiento Animal, Instituto de Ecología, A.C. Xalapa, Veracruz 2: Licenciatura en Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Querétaro, México

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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